Order of Business

It is proposed to take No. 46, statements on Northern Ireland and the Stormont House Agreement. It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that: the Dáil shall sit later than 9 p.m. tonight and shall adjourn on the adjournment of Private Members' business which shall be No. 187, motion re junior certificate exam structures, shall take place on the conclusion of Topical Issues and shall, if not previously concluded, adjourn after 90 minutes; the proceedings in relation to No. 46 shall be taken immediately after the Order of Business and shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion after two hours and the following arrangements shall apply: the statement of the Taoiseach, Tánaiste and of the leaders of Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin and the Technical Group, or a person nominated in their stead, who shall be called upon in that order, shall not exceed 15 minutes in each case; and such Members may share their time; the statement of a Minister or Minister of State and of the main spokespersons for Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin and the Technical Group, who shall be called in that order, shall not exceed ten minutes in each case; and such Members may share their time; a Minister or Minister of State shall be called upon to make a statement in reply which shall not exceed five minutes; and the order shall resume thereafter with Topical Issues; tomorrow's business after Oral Questions shall be: No. a17 - motion re Draft Oder for the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes.

It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that the proceedings on No. a17 shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 5.30 p.m. tomorrow evening and the following arrangements shall apply: the speech of a Minister or Minister of State and of the main spokespersons for Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin and the Technical Group, who shall be called upon in that order, shall not exceed 15 minutes in each case, and such Members may share their time; the speech of each other Member called upon shall not exceed ten minutes in each case, and such Members may share their time; and a Minister or Minister of State shall be called upon to make a speech in reply, which shall not exceed ten minutes.

There are three proposals to put to the House. Is the proposal for dealing with the late sitting agreed to? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 46 agreed to? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with No. a17 agreed to? Agreed.

There have been reports lately referring to the commitments of the Government to cut taxes at the top and lower levels. There are new reports about negotiations and the beginning of a new social dialogue or partnership. The Taoiseach may not be aware that the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Brendan Howlin, said today that the Government intends to amend the FEMPI legislation and to reverse cuts to the pension levy and pay reductions for the public sector. Can the Taoiseach outline to the House when the amended FEMPI Bill as well as the amending industrial relations legislation will come before it?

When can we expect the child and family relationships Bill? The Taoiseach and Government plan to meet tomorrow to discuss the wording of the two planned referendums for May, but can he confirm when the Bill will finally be debated by the House? When does the Taoiseach propose to establish the referendum commission so that people will be in possession of the full facts well before the referendums are held?

In terms of health legislation, the Taoiseach might clarify for me the relationship between the programme for Government on health and the legislative programme we got at the start of this session. There is no relationship between the legislative commitments in the programme for Government and what is contained in sections A, B and C of the legislative programme. For example, the integrated care agency Bill is not included as a Bill which is approved or whose heads have been approved or are yet to be approved. There is a long list of health Bills in section C, but none of them have anything to do with an integrated agency, hospital insurance fund, patient safety authority or any of a whole raft of commitments in the programme for Government in terms of universal hospital care insurance, the GP contract, and the legislative basis for universal primary care, a universal primary care Act. I respectfully suggest that in the interests of realism or honesty pages 3 to 6, inclusive, of the programme for Government should be deleted or reviewed. The Government can tell fairy tales for three and a half or four years, but it is taking matters to the cleaners altogether in terms of the health agenda. The Taoiseach might indicate when the health information Bill is due.

Deputy Martin would like to delete a lot of things, but he will not be able to.

I would like to see a lot of this brought to fruition, including for example the programme for Government commitment on investment in the supply of more and better care for older people in the community. I have just asked about it during Leaders' Questions, but there is no money for it. The programme refers to additional funding each year for the care of older people, residential places, more home care packages, and the delivery of more home help and other professional community care services. They have all been cut back and the fair deal system of financing is under review. We have not heard about the review yet and it is being cut back. The programme for Government contains Alice in Wonderland stuff. It tears its credibility to shreds when none of it corresponds to the legislative agenda in health. None of this is going to happen.

In respect of Deputy Martin's comment on taxes, that is clearly a matter for consideration as we move into preparation of the budget and I will not comment on it now. It is important to say that the Government has set out the fact that it wants to have an economic statement towards the end of spring which sets out the challenges on the road ahead. I would like to think the House would have an opportunity to have a real input and discussion into that.

We are not going back to social partnership the way it was. What I found wrong with social partnership was that all of those meetings took place in secret away from this institution. Given the primacy of Government and the Oireachtas, those who are elected here should have the right and the opportunity to consider, debate and reflect on the challenges that lie ahead for our country economically and in every other way. That will be the position.

The Minister, Deputy Howlin, has referred to the FEMPI legislation on a number of occasions. The Haddington Road agreement will run until July 2016 and Deputy Howlin is making preparations for a pay and reform structure that will follow it. In respect of the work the Minister for Finance, Deputy Noonan and Deputy Howlin are undertaking, I like to think they are discussing the structure and options by which people can engage with issues about which we have to make decisions in the future. I want to see the Oireachtas committee dealing with finance and this House having the opportunity to debate and discuss these important matters. The Minister for Finance, Deputy Noonan, made a proposal to me which we should very carefully consider. He proposed that we establish a budgetary committee here so that Members could have their proposals costed in a way that would allow for a better, more focused debate on the challenges that lie ahead. It would reform the process by which we prepare for the future and the budget so Members would have the opportunity to be better prepared and better able to participate.

We made that proposal three years ago.

The children and family relationship Bill will come before the Dáil in February.

I said the Minister, Deputy Howlin, was starting the process. There will not be a Bill dealing with FEMPI here. He is beginning the process of preparing to have a pay and reform structure to follow the Haddington Road agreement, which will run until July 2016. The Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Fitzgerald, hopes to pass the children and family relationship Bill soon after it comes before the Dáil in February. The Deputy mentioned the patient safety agency, integrated care agency, hospital care purchase agency, the structural reform of the health sector and universal health insurance. Many of these issues are contingent on preparations being made for universal health insurance, which will happen in the lifetime of the next Government.

The Taoiseach says.

Yes, absolutely. I heard some remarks about Deputy Martin in that regard today and I do not believe them at all.

The Taoiseach has some neck. Get off the stage. "The money follows the patient."

These areas are part of the discussion with the Minister for Health.

What about the election after that?

What about the HSE?

The Government said it would get rid of it.

Assuming the Government signs off on this tomorrow with the Minister for Justice and Equality, we will be able to appoint a Referendum Commission and give it plenty of time to do its work. The Government will meet on the question of the wording tomorrow.

Will the Taoiseach rewrite the programme for Government now that it will not happen in the lifetime of this Government? Is the Dutch model gone?

Deputy Martin had a fair innings.

The Dutch model is gone.

Deputy Adams without interruption.

"The money follows the patient." It was a fair old election slogan.

Deputy, please.

I am just reliving old times.

That would be dangerous for Deputy Martin.

Do not encourage him, please. Deputy Adams, please ask your question.

Deputy Martin will continue to relive them over there.

Tá ceist agam faoin Redress for Women Resident in Certain Institutions Bill agus Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Bill. Although I raised elements of this during Taoiseach's questions, I was unsatisfied with the answers he gave. I am reflecting on the fact that in 2013 the Taoiseach apologised unreservedly to the survivors of the Magdalen laundries, said it was a national disgrace and said he had put in place a process to help and support the women. The Bill to facilitate this was published before Christmas and it has been a focus of extensive criticism from survivors, particularly the Justice for Magdalenes Research group, which described it as a massive clawback from what was promised in the redress scheme as proposed by Mr. Justice John Quirke. The advocacy groups said the Bill was unacceptable, unfair and full of broken promises. Will the Taoiseach withdraw the Bill and facilitate the speedy drafting of new legislation to implement the commitments which he and the Government made two years ago? If he is determined to proceed, when will the Bill be ordered for Second Stage?

According to a scientific report, 2014 was the warmest year on record and the economic and human cost of climate change is evident in the damage caused by extreme weather conditions, particularly increased insurance costs and lives lost. We have seen this in our communities and have debated it here. The Government's climate action and low carbon development Bill is three years behind schedule, has been widely criticised for its lack of ambition and fails to set out any long-term target for reducing Irish greenhouse gas emissions. While it talks grandly about making a transition to a low-carbon economy by 2015, it contains no specific definition of what a low-carbon economy is. It does not guarantee the independence needed for the expert advisory council. When will the Bill be brought before the Dáil?

I cannot believe the Deputy is asking me to withdraw a Bill which we have awaited for 60 years.

It is inadequate.

I disagree.

What Deputy Adams said is wrong.

The Magdalen Bill published before Christmas will be taken here in the next few weeks. It has been very well accepted and supported by the vast majority of the women who went through the Magdalen laundries. As I said earlier, the Government is fully committed to implementing all Mr. Justice Quirke's recommendations. The relief and acceptance on the part of those women of the State's response following Mr. Justice Quirke's report is evidence of the measure of support they have given it.

The climate change Bill will be discussed here in the second week of February. It has taken a long time to get to this point, and it has probably been worth the wait in that the nature of the debate has changed from Lima towards a conference in Paris later this year. The European Council gave Ireland a specific understanding of the very difficult position the country was in because of the method of setting targets for Ireland to 2020 and beyond to 2030. We are now in a much better position to negotiate far more realistic and achievable targets.

What is the progress of the public health (alcohol) Bill? We have a changing pattern of alcohol consumption bringing particular challenges in health and social life. The traditional Irish pub, which is so important for our tourism product and social life, is under threat.

A great deal of work is being done on it. Measures on aspects such as advertising and minimum unit pricing will be dealt with by regulation. Sponsorship, marketing and advertising are receiving much attention and we discussed the issues on Monday at a Cabinet sub-committee. We will make a decision on that element of it in the near future.

I refer to a situation in Galway in which Bam Contractors Limited altered and falsified a subcontractor's document for its own benefit while a case between the contractor and subcontractor was going through the adjudication process and only admitted it afterwards. When will the contractors' Bill come before the Dáil to protect subcontractors and prevent their blatant abuse by major construction companies such as Bam Contractors limited?

Does the Deputy refer to the Construction Contracts Act 2013? It has been enacted already.

I will come back to the Taoiseach.

Is the Deputy talking about the building control Bill?

It is due later this year.

I am deeply disappointed that in the forthcoming legislative programme I noticed that the noise nuisance Bill might not be reached in this session. All the indications are that the heads of the Bill have not been approved and that it may not be brought before the Dáil. The Bill could enhance greatly the quality of life of the many thousands of people who suffer from anti-social behaviour and the terrible effects it has on them. The Garda and many community groups have stated the vast majority of anti-social behaviour is created by noise pollution from parties that continue until 3 a.m., 4 a.m. or 5 a.m. As Members are now, if one likes, into the last session of the Dáil and in spite of promises made by successive Governments that the Bill would be brought forward to deal with anti-social behaviour, the indications are that it may not be reached. Ireland is out of step with many other countries in Europe. Is there anything that can be done to bring this important Bill to deal with anti-social behaviour to the House before this Dáil finishes?

Deputy McGrath had a deep intake of breath when Deputy John Halligan stated this was the last session of the Dáil.

It is not; I am sorry.

Is the Taoiseach referring to me?

Deputy John Halligan gave the Deputy a fright.

While the man sitting beside the Taoiseach might be, I am not too worried.

Deputy John Halligan gave the Deputy a touch of anxiety. I note that there are 41 Bills in the programme for this session. They are all priority Bills, many of which have a degree of urgency attached, and the Government must try to work its time in a way that - without the use of the guillotine - will still allow adequate time for Members to discuss these important issues. While the noise nuisance Bill is not in the programme, as the Deputy is aware, there are facilities under the existing system to build evidence of anti-social behaviour whereby local authorities can take action. However, I regret to state it has not been possible to get the noise pollution Bill into the House. The Deputy has raised the issue a number of times.

When will the promised legislation on Government appointments to State boards be brought before Members? Second, will the Taoiseach have a specific look at the Western Development Commission? Of the nine board members, three are former Fine Gael councillors, while another was a failed Labour Party election candidate. Another member may also be a member of the Taoiseach's party.

That is not a matter for the Order of Business.

That gives a majority of board members who are former councillors, candidates or party members. Will the Taoiseach examine the issue?

I will. The Deputy was not present when I answered this question earlier-----

It is all changed now.

-----albeit not about the Western Development Commission. We are in a new space in which they all must apply under the Public Appointments Service.

There is more space for the boys on board.

They are vetted and accredited independently entirely by the Public Appointments Service and I am glad that this is the position. I hope those members who are serving on the board of the Western Development Commission are doing a really good job.

It is a two-for-one strategy.

On the water services Bill, the Taoiseach will be aware of the considerable fear and anxiety in north County Louth, particularly in the Dundalk area, where approximately 50,000 people are seriously worried about the quality of water coming through the system because of pollution leaking into the source of supply at Lough Muckno, Castleblayney, County Monaghan. This is a particularly serious hazard and certainly should not be pretended to be a minor issue. It is a serious matter in a large conurbation of approximately 50,000 people.

That sounds like a Topical Issue.

Perhaps the Taoiseach might make contact with the Environmental Protection Agency and the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government about this matter in order that an investigation could get under way about the problems there.

I will respond to the Deputy on that issue. I have seen the reports on the dangers and, obviously, the concerns of many that their water systems might be being poisoned by toxic fluids either being dumped deliberately or leaking into the system. Obviously, it is a matter for the EPA, the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government and the Garda, where necessary.

The issue of farm safety must be tackled by necessary incentives and legislation because if countries such as Denmark can record zero fatalities from farm accidents, it is clear that Ireland's approach to farm safety and health is not working. When is the environmental liability Bill expected to be brought forward? Perhaps this legislation might go some way towards addressing the issue because there was a feature on the "Late Late Show" broadcast last weekend in which the catastrophe for several families because of farm accidents could be seen. It is still a very serious problem in Ireland.

The Minister of State may wish to make a comment on this matter.

Yes, this is a serious concern for many people right across the-----

This is completely out of order.

Will he answer a question from me?

No, this is not-----

It is out of order.

Is this the Taoiseach's appointed successor?

The Taoiseach cannot play fast and loose with the Order of Business.

Deputy Mattie McGrath is getting worried now.

The environmental liability Bill is not part of the farm safety programme, but I take the point raised by Deputy James Bannon. It is a personal tragedy in a number of cases in which accidents have happened and, unfortunately, continue to happen. I note that the farming organisations have been clear about having guidelines for farmers, particularly when working alone in paddocks or on farmyards where, unfortunately, these accidents happen on an all-too-frequent basis.

There is an ongoing issue where people with severe disabilities cannot access public transport, in rural areas in particular. A Bill is required to ensure an individual payment would go towards contributing to transport costs. When will the health (transport support) Bill be brought before the House?

I cannot give the Deputy a date for publication of the legislation. I will let him have a report on the progress being made in the discussions taking place in that regard.

I am enraged and disgusted at the dumping of illegal diesel fuel waste in the River Fane, County Louth. The River Fane supplies water to the local Cavan Hill treatment plant which, in turn, supplies drinking water to most of the vicinity around Dundalk. This dumping of waste is causing pollution and has been ongoing for years in Dundalk and the surrounding areas and is a threat to both the countryside and human life. I ask the Taoiseach to please, once and for all, sort out the issue of fuel-laundering north and south of the Border.

About what Bill is the Deputy talking?

This waste must be in containers. There must be some way to find out who is supplying it in the area. Will the Taoiseach please help?

I have already stated I will advise Deputy Seamus Kirk about this matter. I can advise Deputy Peter Fitzpatrick and everybody else of the investigations taking place to establish whether the source can be determined and its cause and discover those responsible for dumping toxic fluids into water systems or in areas where they leak into water systems, thereby causing fear, anxiety and concern for the people of County Louth.

I wish to ask the Taoiseach about two items of legislation, the first of which is the scrap and precious metals Bill. It has been promised twice by the former Minister, Deputy Alan Shatter, and the current Minister, Deputy Frances Fitzgerald, and it is important that it be enacted to give some strength to the Garda in tracing precious gold and scrap metal.

On the second item, given that the Cabinet will meet tomorrow to discuss the referendum, perhaps it might get time to discuss the judgment of the Supreme Court on the manner in which the money appropriated by the House to run the children's rights referendum was mishandled. A sum of €1.1 million was misappropriated and it was never debated or discussed here in the House. There is never any recognition-----

The Deputy should table a question.

I have done so, but I get no answers. The Cabinet might get a chance to make sure the commission it will appoint will not be interfered with this time and will be let do the job it will be appointed to do and not be interfered with by the Government.

The Deputy will have to find another way to raise that matter.

No, the Taoiseach might consider it tomorrow; it is highly appropriate. Alternatively, he might pass it to his Minister of State.

I can assure the Ceann Comhairle that the Government will act strictly in accordance with the decision and findings of the Supreme Court.

It did not do so the last time. Will the Taoiseach answer my other question?

On the precious metals Bill.

It was a Private Members' Bill introduced by Deputy Mattie McGrath.

Yes, but the Government promised to bring forward its own Bill.

I am not sure where it ended up.

On the scrap heap, like everything else here. The Government promised to publish own Bill.

It seems to have been smelted somewhere along the way.

What happened to the Government's Bill?

I will advise the Deputy.

While I inquired about this item of legislation last week, I missed out on the reply. The control and sale of alcohol Bill is awaited eagerly by many interest groups nationwide. I am not certain whether progress can be reported at this stage and ask the Taoiseach whether it is possible to move ahead with this important Bill. While, allegedly, it is dependent on a court case in an adjoining jurisdiction, the time surely has come when Members should be able to proceed using their own strength.

I already have answered this question. The legislation is close to being finalised. There are questions about what can be dealt with by way of regulations, while sponsorship is a particular issue that has been the subject of discussions between a number of Ministers with a particular interest in it. This is not as confined an issue as one might imagine, but there is agreement on the area which needs to be regulated. Consequently, the Deputy should note that the legislation is not far away.

I thank the Taoiseach.